Wallace (1999) provides a rather “1999” view of social interactions on the Internet. What I mean is that he (I am assuming ”he” by the writing style, but I’m not sure, which is an early assessment I made in reading the article that certainly colored the way in which I was processing the information) reflects a point in time in the progression of the Internet in which the tools for social interaction were primitive and users’ familiarity with said tools was similarly rudimentary. I myself was an avid IRC user (mostly for Warez purposes, a fact I’m not proud of and been completely reformed of) and I concur that the Internet was a rather chilly place.
I believe this is mostly because I think it was a much more utilitarian place to be (you know, like to steal stuff) – as opposed to being a place to “be” (at least not for the average user). I know I wasn’t there to develop relationships or stay connected with friends. I think this is an important point that Wallace echoes in the chapter. We are living through a revolution in the ways we communicate, interact, and express ourselves in this world on Gutenbergian and Bellian (A. Graham Bell that is) magnitude. We’re trying to adapt and there will be stages and phases in this process. Each day I think we’ll be better at interacting more genuinely (as opposed to less-genuinely which is an interesting insight noted on page 33) in digital realms and understanding how humans interface with this technology. Wallace (1999) dually notes this by saying, “we adaptable humans are still learning how to thaw the chilly Internet” (p. 18)
Yet, I think the most important question raised by the Wallace (1999) piece is how much can current, pre-Internet constructs of social cognition be applied to social interactions in this new medium. Even more interesting (to me at least), is the idea that perhaps the creation of the Internet and evolution of how it is used will reveal new constructs about human nature, human psychology, and the ways in which humans interact. In a somewhat similar sense, I think an important question that has broadly applied to much of our class coversations is whether the Internet is changing humans (psychologically, cognitively) and human interaction on a fundamental level.
Goffman (1959) delves deeply into the world of metacognition and social interactions. In his view, we are always maintaining the impression of ourselves (which requires extensive thinking about our thinking) we hope to transmit to others. He is presenting a prequel to Elkind’s imaginary audience while giving it more credence than the “imaginary” moniker connotes. Goffman (1959) argues that we are embroiled in a constant “game” trying to control others’ responses to our self-presentations to achieve our ends. This “game” is indeed real and the consequences are real. An awkward adolescent dressing and acting a certain way in order to influence an audience to think they’re cool is just showing, in Goffman’s opinion, their budding talents as a social actor able to influence others' behavior.
I think that Goffman’s discussion of governable versus ungovernable components of self-expression provide an interesting application to the social networking world of the 21st century. For example, there are many parts of my Facebook profile that I can govern and tailor to produce desirable impressions of myself in others. On the other hand, there are ungovernable aspects of my Facebook page which generally take the form of other’s comments to my status updates, replies to comments I’ve made on someone’s wall, my friends status updates, my friends videos, and the profile pictures of my friends to name a few. Now, I understand that in referring to the ungovernable, Goffman was alluding to things like our body language, actions, and other forms of communication we can’t easily control, but I think this concept finds new meaning in social networking. If I’m trying to present myself as a devoted father and hard-working academic while in their status updates my friends talk incessantly about snorting fat lines and growing Purple Kush, you might wonder a bit about who I really am as a person. I have thought of this recently as I still have many old friends in Facebook who indulge in old habits and talk about them openly. These people still are a part of who I am and I want them to remain as such. My being friends with them expresses somewhat of what kind of person I was and currently am, less the risky behaviors. I just don't know how I feel about, for example, an potential employer reading one of my old friends' rant on the need to make April 20th a national holiday or why Michael Phelps is a God for everything he's done outside of the pool. I am who I am, right? Perhaps worrying about all the ungovernables (and governables) has just restricted what could be a natural and decided less self-conscious expression of the true me in every realm of communication.
1) Can we ever really control the way others perceive us? If parts of these interactions are ungovernable and often taken the wrong way, is this “game” worth playing? Perhaps promoting a less self-conscious presentation of self will produce better positive self-development instead of characterizing it as a big, somewhat fake charade (ala Goffman).
2) Is social networking on the Internet taking us to a new, better place in social interaction or is it just taking us in a long, drawn out circle? What I mean is whether the evolution of social networking is moving us to a place that will really enhance our relationships and overall happiness of our lives or are we just a few more clever emoticons and enhances video chats away from concluding that there is still no substitute for face-to-face interactions.